TO BE READ BEFORE THE PERFORMANCE
"The Song of the Earth" is the culmination of a long dialogue with the music of Gustav Mahler initiated in 1974 by the director of The Hamburg Ballet. Considered by many to be the composer's most personal work and indeed his masterpiece, this symphony for voice and orchestra draws its inspiration from 8th-century Chinese poems translated into German and partly rewritten by Mahler himself.
The seven poems chosen by the musician and transformed into six songs, translate the rhythm of the seasons, friendship, the beauty of young women, the beauty of nature, and more than anything else, the anguish of the human soul faced with the finality of life. Grief-stricken by the death of his eldest daughter, Mahler was diagnosed with a serious heart condition and thus was deprived of his long walks in the mountains. In this situation, the Viennese composer must have found some consolation to his unfathomable melancholy in these bittersweet songs.
Fifty years after dancing Kenneth MacMillan's ballet "The Song of the Earth which premiered in Stuttgart in 1965, John Neumeier wished to pay tribute to both the choreographer and the composer in this culmination of a cycle in the course of which he created 15 ballets to Mahler's music. John Neumeier's profoundly musical nature allows him to give free rein to his intuition and his sensitivity in a quest for the specific emotion expressed by the score and the texts themselves. His affinity for both the poetry of the Far East and Mahler's symphonies is clearly apparent in this choreography of rare and subtle sensitivity, in the clean, minimalist scenography and in the stylized costumes inspired by ancient Chinese paintings and designed by Neumeier himself. Swept along by music and the song, the dancers become the interpreters of an ineffably poetic message that sublimates the symbiosis between the texts and Mahler's score.
Music: Gustav Mahler
Choreography, Set, Lighting Concept and Costumes: John Neumeier
Supported by Else Schnabel and the Foundation for the Patronage of the Hamburg State Opera
1 hour 30 minutes | no intermission
Ballet National de l'Opéra de Paris, Paris, February 24, 2015
Premiere in Hamburg:
The Hamburg Ballet, Hamburg, December 4, 2016